Beginner's Corner Pt. V: Let's Wrap it Up

by Kim Heaston

So far we have chosen a rod, fly line, reels, and discussed leaders so lets put the system together and take it for a test spin. How do all of these components come together? I can sense this question coming so here is a start on putting it together.

Attach the fly line backing to the reel. This has not been previously mentioned. Backing? What is backing? The fly line is of limited length and will not usually fill the reel. To prevent the fly line from taking a permanent set and to allow for some extra line if your fish puts up a good fight you need to put a layer of backing on your reel first. This is usually 20-lb. test Dacron line. The reel manufacturer usually tells you how much backing to put on the reel for a given weight and style line. Often times you can buy a spool of the recommended length. Using too much backing is the safer way to add backing. Too little backing will impede your casting because the line will want to remain tightly coiled. Too much can always be trimmed shorter. The backing and fly line, when reeled in should be about ¼ inch from the edge of the spool to allow smooth operation of the reel. The backing is attached by tying a slipknot around the spool and then an overhand knot at the tag end. Wrap a few turns by hand to trap the line and insert the spool into the reel. Put the reel on your rod and reel up the backing evenly with moderate tension.

The backing is attached to the fly line with an Allbright knot. Tying the knot is difficult to describe so come to a meeting to learn how. Reel up the fly line. If there is less than ¼ inch of space between the edge of the spool and your line you will need to remove a few yards of backing until it comes out about right.

There are many ways to attach the leader to the fly line. The most commonly used method is the nail knot. Again, this is a difficult knot to describe (but fairly easy to tie) so come to a meeting to learn how. The other methods are making an epoxy connection to the fly line or using a commercial device for the connection. It is recommended to know the nail knot so that when you are in the middle of a stream and your alternate method fails you will have this skill to reattach your leader. Now tie on a tippet to the end of your leader. There are also several knots for this. Tie it about eighteen inches long and of the same size as your leader.

Finally, after you have assembled your rod and reel and threaded the line through the guides you must tie on a fly. A great many articles and studies have been made about the knots used for this purpose. Two knots that are fairly easy and quite strong that come to mind for tying on flies are the improved clinch knot and the Trilene knot. Both are similar in how they are tied and retain up to 90% of the line strength.

I know that I've been brow beating you about coming to meetings to learn this stuff but I also know that it's not always possible. So I am going to recommend a book that will give you more detail on setting up for the first time. From whatever sources you, can get a copy of "The Orvis Fly-Fishing Guide". It will take you from selecting a rod through landing your first fish. You will never become proficient by just reading but this is a great book for anyone who has gotten the bug.

Note: This article originally appeared in our July 2001 newsletter.

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